Ireland, No- 10.]
AN APPEAL TO ENGLISH
TO THE EDITOR OF " TEE DAILY TELEGRAPH."
Sir, — Although I have no claim upon your valuable space, I
shall feel indebted if I am permitted in your columns to give
utterance to my regret at what is about to take place. It is to
be proposed, in the name of the Liberals of England and Scot-
land, and by a Prime Minister who has done gigantic services
on the side of the Liberal party, that a million of capable citi-
zens, guiltless of crime against the Empire, shall be taken down
from the rank to which they were born — the rank of citizens
on a par with men in Yorkshire or the Lothians — and shall be
reduced to the grade of citizens on condition ; the condition
being that before they can enjoy the immunities of the Empire
they must first be subjects of the Irish National League, and take
their laws from a Parliament formed of men selected by its
seventeen hundred branches.
Being one of those who have always held that every inequality
inflicted by law on any class of our fellow-subjects should be
removed, I have gladly supported Mr. Gladstone in every step
taken in that direction. As in the past so, to-day, I should claim
for the peasant in Mayo or Clare precisely the same rights as for
the peasant in Antrim, Kent, or Perthshire ; should claim for
the Eoman Catholic priest the same freedom, and the same pro-
tection of the laws, as for every other minister of religion, neither
more nor less; and should claim for Ireland or its provinces
precisely the same measure of local self-government as for any
portions of England, Scotland or Wales. Exceptional legislation
-r . Q f V"/ < /a .."" '""
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as for any class, or as against any class, I hold to be first wrong
and then mischievous.
These principles, however, condemn what is now demanded
on behalf of the Eoman Catholic majority in Ireland. What
they claim is not the removal of any inequality, or the abolition
of any exceptional privileges. It is the founding in their own
favour, by exceptional legislation, of new privileges, in both
legislative and executive power. They claim what no three or
four millions out of thirty-five millions possess or would dream of
claiming — namely, that they shall themselves be exempted from
the balancing control of the thirty millions of the United King-
dom ; and, further, that the loyal Irish shall be deprived of the
.safeguard afforded by the same balancing control.
Is it not the same case as if the Nonconformists of Scotland
and Wales, instead of asking that they should be relieved of
inequalities upheld by law in favour of a minority, and asking it
loyally and peaceably, should ask to be relieved from all legis-
lative control but their own ; also to have in each case the
minority subjected to their legislation — ay, and should ask this
with menace to life, to property, to the very forms of the national
We are told of Home Rule in the Colonies. Was there
•ever a case in which a colony was handed over to a disloyal
majority, supported by violently hostile sympathisers in America,
-and that in face of the protests and entreaties of a loyal minority
in distress, at great danger, as they believe, to botii their civil
.and religious interests ?
Home Eule in the case of a colony meant that people
previously destitute of any place in the Imperial Legislature were
taken out of the pupilage of the Colonial Office and raised to
Parliamentary Government. It did not mean that people
possessed of hereditary rights in the Imperial Legislature were
to be subjected to the yoke of a local majority, which they
dreaded. Once more, in descriptions of the organisation of the
National League, we are told how its onicers declared that its
branches numbered 1,700, and that in almost every case a priest
was either the president or secretary. Now, was there ever a
colony in which every district was ruled by a junta, headed by a
Bom an Catholic priest ?
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Take the Liberals of any Eoinan Catholic country— say
Belgium, France, Bavaria, or Italy— and ask them:— Given a
section of a united kingdom, with three-fourths Eoman Catholics
and one-fourth Protestants, the Eoman Catholics being organised
In local committees, presided over by priests, and claiming that
the national Legislature shall cease to make laws for both
parties in common, and leave that to a local chamber ; would it
be liberal policy to carry that wish into effect ? They would say
such a policy would be impossible to a Liberal statesman, would
scarcely be possible to a Conservative one, would be that of a
reactionary or a clerical one.
We are told of Home Eule in the United States. Was there
ever a State with this system of priest-ruled juntas, or ever a
State where laws were not subjected to a supreme court, above
even the national legislature ? Home Eule, or States Eights,
has already cost America four years of civil war, and may cost
So long as Mr. Gladstone was redressing inequalities or in-
justice, those of us who could only smile at promises of " settling,"
4( satisfying," and " reconciling," were bound to support him as
much as if we believed in such illusions ; just because the prin-
ciples were liberal, and the attempt to give effect to them right.
.But it is another matter when Mr. Gladstone comes forward
proposing to erect new and exceptional powers for one section
of population, and from another section, not less worthy, to
shear away their born rights and their protection vehemently
prized. Does not Mr. Gladstone here cross the line of equal
rights ? Does he not allow himself to be carried off the Liberal
ground — that of free and equal legislation — on to the high Tory
ground of employing authority to put down equal rights, and to
set up physical might and ecclesiastical pretension ?
We are told that the men of Ulster are only 800,000, and
even if they do rebel, the 30,000,000 of England and Scotland
can put them down. Yes ; thirty to one would put them down.
But do Englishmen and Scotchmen feel that it would be right
to put the bayonet, thirty to one, to the breast of every Irish
Loyalist, and say : Submit to the Priests' Parliament ?
If the Nonconformists of England and Scotland allow thorn-
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selves to be manipulated to the hurt of their fellow Protestants
in Ireland, by setting up Eoman ascendancy (where they, on
principle, helped to put down Protestant ascendancy), they wall
do a great injustice to the cause of civil and religious liberty, of
which they have in the past been the pioneers and watchmen all
over the world. Happily for them, they can but imperfectly
judge the case ; no man can well judge of it unless he has lived
in Ireland, or in the Eoman States or Naples, when they were
ruled by priests. The principles of Nonconformists led them
fearlessly up to the line of equal rights — a line to which, for
them, Mr. Gladstone never came. The same principles call them
to stand like men, as soon as it is proposed to pass that line by
conferring on one body exceptional powers, and depriving
another of protection inherited, needed, and violating the equal
rights of no man. I cannot conceive how any Nonconformist,
Scotch or English, after time has allowed the first impetus of
party cohesion to subside, can for a moment think of depriving
the Protestants of Ireland of the civil and religious guarantees
which the Constitution accords to them, and of placing them in
the power of a Parliament composed as they know one in Dublin
would be composed. If they stand by and see this effected, they
will undo much of the work done by their fathers, and will leave
to their children weary tasks in attempting to repair breaches
made by their unfaithfulness.
I am, Sir, your obedient servant,
Ex-President "Wesley an Conference.
London, April 24.
Published bt the Liberal Committee for the Maintenance of thf.
Legislative Union between Great Britain and Ireland,
35^ Spring Gardens, S.W.